Cherokee Dances fall into two basic categories: Social Dances and Religious or Ceremonial Dances. Religious Dances always involved pre-selected dancers and complex choreography and steps, and also included at least one social dance at the end of the ceremonies which was open to all of the participants in a ceremonial dance.
Social Dances are more prevalent in modern Cherokee societies and some of these dances were adopted as the result of contact with other Native American tribes. One example of this is the Cherokee Butterfly Dance, which is also known as the Ladies' Fancy Shawl Dance on the modern day pow wow circuits. The Cherokee have a legend explaining how this dance came to be, but the Crow also have another legend with their own version of this dance. In both cultues, it started out as a powerful medicine dance, but in today's culture it is one of the popular competition dances at social powwows on the Northern pow wow circuit.
Many of the traditional dances performed in ancient times have been preserved and are still practiced. However, many of these dances no longer serve the same functions as before and are performed only for religious ceremonies or as reenactments of the ancient culture. Some of the dances are now illegal to perform as they traditionally incorporated the taking of human scalps.
Modern Cherokee societies also have divergent customs as the result of geographical isolation and varying degrees of contact with other tribes and local cultural influences that have shaped the modern dance customs of the Cherokee groups occupying North America.
The most important religious dance of the Cherokee people is the Stomp Dance. In a ceremonial setting, this dance is always preceded by a game of A-ne-jo-di, or Stickball, which resembles the European game of LaCrosse, but a competitive or socal A-ne-jo-di game doesn't always include the dance. It depends on the intent of the gathering -- whether it is a religious, or social gathering.
The Cherokee used masks in numerous dances. One such dance, known as "The Booger Dance", was usually performed in the late fall or winter. It's intent was to make fun of and belittle the enemies of the Cherokee. The Booger masks were made to represent the faces of people who were the enemies of the Cherokee. In earlier times, they may have represented the Chickasa or Seneca people, who were enemies of the Cherokee before European contact. After interaction with the whites became prevalent and hostilities started, the masks began to resemble a bald man with a very round face, since many of the white men of this era wore their heads shaved, and generally had less angular features than the Indian peoples. Today, the Booger mask is a popular item produced for the tourist trade, especially in North Carolina.
The Bear Dance, Beaver Dance, and Forest Buffalo Dances also employed masks which represented the respective animal portrayed. The Cherokee also have an Ancient Eagle Ceremonial Dance that includes elaborate 6 foot wings made from white or nearly white bald eagle feathers, which is danced mostly today for exibition purposes.
Tsi'yu-gunsini - Dragging Canoe, Chickamaugas Chief Tsi'yu-gunsini was a war leader who led a dissident band of young Cherokees against the United States in the American Revolutionary War. Dragging Canoe is considered by many to be the most significant leader of the Southeast, and provided a significant role model for the younger Tecumseh, who was a member of a band of Shawnee living with the Chickamaugas and taking part in their wars.